Close the Camps protests July 2 2019

Host or Attend #CloseTheCamps Protest Tuesday, July 2

Presidents Day 2019 Protests against Fake Emergency

Attend a Presidents Day Protest

Families Belong Together Protest Rallies Nationwide

Families Belong Together Protest Rallies Nationwide
by Susan Basko, esq.

On Saturday June 30, 2018, there will be Families Belong Together protest rallies nationwide.  These are protests against immigrant children being separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border.

You can find a protest near you using the search feature on this site:

If you register to attend, you will receive updates.  Many of the rallies will include music and speakers.

The rallies are planned to be legal, safe, and friendly for families, elderly, and disabled.  If you attend, please bring water, sunscreen, and a sign, if you make one.  If you are making signs, plan to hand-hold them and do not put them on sticks, which will not likely be allowed into any protest area.  Where sticks are allowed, if you keep your stick to the length and width and thickness of a wooden yardstick, it should be fine.  In fact, people do use wooden yardsticks for their signs.

Have a great day helping to support and protect families who come to the U.S. seeking safety.

Masks and Bandannas at Protests

Masks and Bandannas at Protests
by Susan Basko, esq.

On Saturday, April 21, 2018, Nazis held a rally in Newnan, Georgia, USA. Counterprotesters showed up, outnumbering the Nazis. There was a heavy presence of militarized police.  The video above is raw footage by Ford Fisher.

Police, aiming what appeared to be live bullet rifles (as opposed to less than lethal weapons) at the protesters at very close range, demanded they remove their masks or bandannas, or be arrested.  Protesters were shoved to the ground and brutally arrested.  This sort of brutality and pointing of guns seems so out of place for such a trivial offense as wearing a mask or bandanna.

LET'S LOOK AT THE LAWS REGARDING MASKS AND BANDANnAS.  Most of these laws are found in State laws, though some might be found in municipal laws.  The law might be an outright prohibition on wearing a mask, disguise, facial covering, etc., in public.  Or a law might prohibit two more more people, gathered, from wearing masks.  Or it might be an enhancement to a sentence if a crime is committed while wearing a mask.

BELOW, WE WILL LOOK SPECIFICALLY AT THE STATE MASK LAWS for Georgia, Illinois, California, and New York.  

 In some states, wearing a mask in public is in and of itself a crime.  In other states, wearing a mask is a crime if another crime is being committed and if the purpose of wearing the mask is to avoid being recognized.

While every state law is different, any mask law is likely to be found in the body of law that will be called the Criminal Statutes or the Criminal Code or the Penal Code.  Then, inside that code, it will usually be in a section called Public Order or Public Safety.  In those sections, the mask law will usually gets its own subsection.  The law might refer to such words as: mask, hood, disguise, conceal, and hilariously in the California law -- "false whiskers."

IF YOU plan to wear any sort of mask, bandanna, etc., to a protest, check the criminal law of that state.  It could be argued that a bandanna is not a "disguise," but police seem to think it is and they are the ones with the guns and zipties.  Interestingly enough, at the Newnan Nazi rally, the police were not concerned that the Nazis were wearing big sunglasses.  These two items seem to be equally taking up space on a person's face.

If you have already been arrested and charged under one of these anti-mask laws, be sure to look up the law and read the wording carefully so you know how to argue against the charge.  Also, if you are taken into court, be sure to ask for a public defender lawyer if you cannot afford a private lawyer.  If you work part time or don't make much money, you most likely qualify for a public defender lawyer, so when you first go before a judge, say, "I want a public defender lawyer."

The Georgia Law makes the wearing of a mask a Misdemeanor.  A misdemeanor is a crime more minor than a felony, so this makes it more outrageous that these police aimed rifles mere inches from these people.  It also seems outrageous that peaceful protesters were shoved onto the ground and manhandled.  Being treated this way should not be the price one pays for a lawful activity of freedoms of assembly and speech.  I assume lawsuits might be forthcoming against those police for excessive use of force against those injured by being tossed face first onto the ground.

What does the Georgia law prohibit?  "Wearing a mask, hood, or device which conceals identity of wearer" on the public way or on private property without permission.  The law does not apply if a person is wearing a holiday costume on the holiday.  That would mean costumes for Halloween is okay.  Another is exception is if the face covering is for occupational or sports safety.  Another exception is theatrical productions and Mardi Gras and masquerade balls.  Another exception is wearing a gas mask in a drill or emergency.

2010 Georgia Code
§ 16-11-38 - Wearing mask, hood, or device which conceals identity of wearer
O.C.G.A. 16-11-38 (2010)
16-11-38. Wearing mask, hood, or device which conceals identity of wearer 

(a) A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he wears a mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon any public way or public property or upon the private property of another without the written permission of the owner or occupier of the property to do so.

(b) This Code section shall not apply to:

(1) A person wearing a traditional holiday costume on the occasion of the holiday;

(2) A person lawfully engaged in trade and employment or in a sporting activity where a mask is worn for the purpose of ensuring the physical safety of the wearer, or because of the nature of the occupation, trade, or profession, or sporting activity;

(3) A person using a mask in a theatrical production including use in Mardi gras celebrations and masquerade balls; or

(4) A person wearing a gas mask prescribed in emergency management drills and exercises or emergencies.


ILLINOIS: Wearing a "hood" or "robe" while committing assault makes it aggravated assault, which is a much more serious crime.

(720 ILCS 5/12-2) (from Ch. 38, par. 12-2) 
    Sec. 12-2. Aggravated assault. 

(c) Offense based on use of firearm, device, or motor vehicle. A person commits aggravated assault when, in committing an assault, he or she does any of the following:
(4) Wears a hood, robe, or mask to conceal his or her identity.

 CALIFORNIA: It is illegal to wear a mask or disguise to evade discovery in the commission of a public offense or to escape.  Thus, in California, wearing a mask is not itself a crime, except when wearing it while committing another crime for the intent of not being recognized.

Penal Code.
PART 1. OF CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS [25 - 680]  ( Part 1 enacted 1872. )  
TITLE 7. OF CRIMES AGAINST PUBLIC JUSTICE [92 - 186.34]  ( Title 7 enacted 1872. )  

CHAPTER 8. Conspiracy [182 - [185.]]  ( Chapter 8 enacted 1872. )
Section One Hundred and Eighty-five. It shall be unlawful for any person to wear any mask, false whiskers, or any personal disguise (whether complete or partial) for the purpose of:

One—Evading or escaping discovery, recognition, or identification in the commission of any public offense.

Two—Concealment, flight, or escape, when charged with, arrested for, or convicted of, any public offense. Any person violating any of the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor.

NEW YORK: The State of New York considers it the crime of "loitering" when two or more people in a disguise congregate in a public place, unless it is a masquerade party or other such entertainment.

New York Consolidated Laws, Penal Law § 240.35 Loitering
A person is guilty of loitering when he:
4. Being masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration, loiters, remains or congregates in a public place with other persons so masked or disguised, or knowingly permits or aids persons so masked or disguised to congregate in a public place;  except that such conduct is not unlawful when it occurs in connection with a masquerade party or like entertainment if, when such entertainment is held in a city which has promulgated regulations in connection with such affairs, permission is first obtained from the police or other appropriate authorities;  

WIKIPEDIA has a nice entry on anti-mask laws.   This is an interesting look at the history of anti-mask laws worldwide.



High School Protest Rights

High School Protest Rights (and some other topics)
by Susan Basko, Esq.

High School students in the U.S. have the right to protest, just like adults do, but not during school time and not on school grounds.  During school time and on school grounds, high school students are required to follow the school and district rules.  After school and off school grounds, you are free to do whatever is legal, just like anyone else.  You can run a protest or attend a protest after school or on the weekend, just like anyone else.

Public vs Private Schools. These laws apply to students at public schools.  Students at private schools or religious schools may be agreeing to a set of rules or a Code of Conduct that directs what a student may do, even in their free time or off campus.  What is a "private school"?  That is a school that is run by a private foundation, by a church or religion, or by a private company. "Charter schools" are privately run, but are paid for by public school money, so this is a grey area.  In general, a charter school can reject a student who breaks their rules.  

Religious high schools, colleges, and universities very often prohibit students from supporting or promoting beliefs that run contrary to the religion.  Students agree to adhere to the rules in order to be allowed to attend the school.  Topics such as abortion, sexual orientation, marriage rights, promotion of legalization of marijuana or drugs -- may be off-limits for students attending some religious schools. Some religious schools go much further than this in their restriction of students' personal activities.  If you are a high school student, your parents are legally allowed/ required to decide what school you attend.  When you are 18 and over and attending college, you should find out the school's beliefs and policies and restrictions before choosing the school.  If your beliefs differ from those of the school and if you are going to have to refrain from voicing your beliefs, the school may not be a good fit for you.  If you attend a private or religious high school or college, you are agreeing to abide by whatever rules or restrictions the school has, and you can be punished or expelled from the school for not following their rules and you generally will have no legal recourse, unless the school itself is doing something illegal, such as physical or sexual abuse.  If that is the case, you have to make a police report.

Law vs Private or Religious School Rules.  Let's be careful to make the distinction between what is legal or illegal versus what is against the rules of a school.  If a student attends a private or religious school that prohibits a student from participating in a protest that is legal, then the student may be in violation of the school rules, but is not breaking any law.  The student might be punished or expelled by the private or religious school, but will not be in any criminal trouble with the law. For example, if you attend a religious college that says you cannot support the right to abortion, and if you do support the right to abortion, then you are violating the rules of the religious college you have chosen to attend, but you are not violating any law.  You can be punished or expelled by your college, but you will not be breaking any law.  


How do you know what your school rules are?  You can look on your school's website and on the school district website to find their rules.  It will be called a "Code of Conduct," a "Student Handbook," a "Discipline Policy," "School Rules," or some such thing.  If this is not online on your school's website, you may have to ask in person for a paper version of it.

Let's look at this in detail.

Punishment: The general legal rule is that a public school cannot punish a student more harshly for an act that is done as a protest than it would for the same act done for another reason.  For example, if an unexcused absence gets a specific punishment, then an unexcused absence for a protest should get the same punishment.  

What is "school time"?  School time is when you are on the school grounds, in school, at a school-sponsored activity or sport, on a school trip, bus rides, hotel stays or home stays while on a school trip, etc.  Also included in school time would be any school camp, summer program, trip abroad, semester abroad, exchange program, etc.  Also included are school dances, proms, graduations and other ceremonies, musical, dance, and theater rehearsals and performances, art shows, school fundraisers, etc.  Basically, any activity connected to school, whether you are on or off the campus, is considered school time where the students are subject to school rules.

What are "school grounds"? That is in the school buildings, on the surrounding grounds, on any other associated buildings or grounds.  This usually includes parking lots, walkways, sports fields, etc. The grey area is the public sidewalk that surrounds the edge of the school, as well as bus stops or bus loading areas that may be on that public walk.  If you plan to use that public walk to pass out flyers, or hold a walk-out, march, or protest, try to find out if the school claims it as part of their grounds.  

School Cops or School Resource Officers:  These are usually sworn police officers whose duty is to be within a school.  They have police power and are allowed to tell students to do something or stop doing something, within the limits of the law.  They also have arrest power.  If there is any abuse of the power or physical or verbal abuse, the students and / or parents should report it to the school, the district, and to the police.

Putting up Posters: Most schools require a student to submit a poster for approval before it can be hung on a bulletin board.  Approval is usually based on if the poster is for a school-sponsored event and if the poster is in good taste.  Don't be surprised if your poster for a protest is rejected or removed off a bulletin board.  Some schools, particularly colleges but also some more liberal high schools, will have the official bulletin boards and in addition, will also have a bulletin board where almost anything can be posted.  You may want to push for your school to have such a bulletin board.  It is always illegal to put up a poster that advocates for anything illegal, and putting up a poster that includes hate speech or that advocates violence will be against school rules and will usually be illegal, too.

Passing Out Flyers:  High school students supposedly have a First Amendment right to pass out flyers.  However, many high schools have rules against even bringing flyers to school, let alone passing them out.  High schools might also have rules against standing in a hall or at an entry way passing out flyers.  This used to be a huge deal before the days of the internet.  Now, it may be just as effective to announce your protest using social media.  If you want to pass out flyers, you are best off to do this on the public sidewalk that is adjacent to the street.  That sidewalk is least likely to be considered school property and least likely to be considered subject to school rules.  No matter where you are passing out flyers, it is illegal to pass out flyers that advocate anything illegal.  

"Speech" in Clothing:  Most public high schools do not have a school uniform, but do have a dress code.  Some dress codes may prohibit wearing any clothing that has words or a message on it. If wearing clothing with a message on it is allowed, then wearing a political message is allowed, if it meets other requirements. 

The following are the "Do Not" rules from the Portland, Oregon Public Schools Dress Code.  These are typical of a non-restrictive public school district's dress code, with the exception that most school districts expressly prohibit a student from wearing any gang identifiers of any kind, including gang insignia, colors, styles, or pictures associated with a gang.  Portland is sliding down the slippery slope by leaving it open as a possibility for a student to wear gang identifiers.  What criteria are used to determine if a student wearing gang identifiers endangers the safety of other students or staff?  And doesn't marking oneself as a gang member always endanger the safety of the person wearing the gang identifier?  The school dress code rules in Portland, Oregon, include these "do nots":
Non-Allowable Dress & Grooming
  • Clothing may not depict, advertise or advocate the use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or other controlled substances.
  • Clothing may not depict pornography, nudity or sexual acts.
  • Clothing may not use or depict hate speech targeting groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation or any other protected groups.
  • Clothing, including gang identifiers, must not threaten the health or safety of any other student or staff.
  • If the student’s attire or grooming threatens the health or safety of any other person, then discipline for dress or grooming violations should be consistent with discipline policies for similar violations.
Walk-Outs:  School walk-outs are generally breaking school rules and are considered an unexcused absence.  Some school walk-outs are tolerated by some school administrations.  It depends on the walk-out and on the administration.  See the section above about "Punishment," and read this post about school walk-outs being elitist.  At one recent national school walk-out against school shootings, many schools allowed students to run a rally or ceremony on school grounds.  This was wise, since it kept students safe and on the school grounds, and also limited the time they were out of class to about one class period.  If students want to walk out and if the school is too strict, this can cause the students to have to walk away off the school grounds, which can possibly endanger them.  If you are a high school student planning a school walk-out at your school, you may wish to enlist the support of parents or teachers who might be able to help get the walk-out sanctioned.  If you are a high school student and if you participate in a walk-out that is not sanctioned by the school, then you will be subject to punishment, but the punishment is not supposed to be any more than if you left school for any other reason.  That will be determined by a number of factors, including the discipline policy at your school, how your school wishes to interpret that policy, and how it wants to interpret your actions.  

Protest Planning: Yes, a high school student can plan a protest!  A high school student can participate in a protest!  Your safest bet is to plan a protest for after school time or on a weekend, and off school grounds.  Here is a guide to quick protest planning.

Protest Writing and Posting Online:  High school students may legally write their political opinions and post them online.  However, a high school student can get in trouble at school or with the police for posting hate speech, sexual harassment, personal harassment, or by posting about violence or violent plans.  A student will also get in trouble at school and with the police for posting pictures or videos that include hate speech or hate ideas, sexual harassment, personal harassment, violence, violent plans, or that show the student or others with guns, other weapons, drugs, or in sexual situations.  Hate speech is speech that targets others based on race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, citizenship status, or disability.  Speech that encourages others to commit suicide or harm themselves will also land a student in school and legal trouble.  Videos or photos or recordings that invade the privacy of others will also land a student in trouble --  even if the student thinks it is a prank. 

Cell Phone Videos:  In recent years, cell phone videos have been used powerfully to show abuse being committed by police, staff, teachers, or students in a school.  It is generally legal to video the police at their jobs, and generally legal to video in a public location, however, a school might have rules against making cell phone videos in school.  Therefore, if you are making a cell phone video at school, you should do so very discreetly so you are not seen doing this and only make a video if you feel you are morally obliged to do so because you are witnessing abuse by a person in power.  You may have to later defend your actions, but we assume you are making the video because you feel a moral imperative to do so-- for example, you feel you are witnessing intolerable abuse and want to make a record of it so the person is held accountable.  If you find yourself in this situation, it is really best to get advice and help from a lawyer or legal organization.

If you make a video of such people, you may be invading privacy if you post the video online.  Youtube has a "face blurring" tool.  You can read here about the Face Blurring Tool.   Using a face blurring tool does not guarantee you will not be accused of invading someone's privacy, but it is helpful.

If you make a video that depicts sexual activity or nudity of someone, you should not post that online, because you may be distributing child pornography or pornography or obscenity.  You need to consult with a lawyer, because you may have created child pornography by making the video.  You may have wanted to "bear witness" to abuse you saw others committing, but you are likely to be perceived as a participant since you were there with a video camera.  Do not post such a video and do not pass it around.  Seek legal advice immediately.  If you need free legal help, there may be a legal clinic in your community or at a local university or law school.

In most instances if you are present when a fellow student is engaged in sexual abuse of another student, it would be better if you were to either intervene to stop the sexual abuse you are witnessing, or to seek a private location and call police.   You might be surprised at how powerful it can be for one person to say, "Hey, stop doing this."  The best course of action would be to walk out and call police. The worst course of action would be to participate or to stand around gawking or laughing.

IF YOU HAVE MADE  A VIDEO that depicts abuse by a school police officer, staff, or teacher, this can be used as a powerful form of protest that can lead to significant changes at your school.  However, be cautious and aware that your path may not be easy and you will need all the legal support you can get.  

Counter-Protesters or Counter-Demonstrators

Counter-Protesters or Counter-Demonstrators
by Susan Basko, esq.

Counter-Protesters, also called Counter-Demonstrators, are people who show up at a protest or demonstration to voice an opinion contrary to the main protest.  The overall rules are that the counter demonstrations are allowed, if they can be accommodated so they do not interfere with the original protest and so both groups are kept safe and separated.  How this plays out is largely dependent on what local police choose to do.

 (April 21, 2018: Nazis marched in the small town of Newnan, Georgia. Counter-protesters showed up and were peaceful, but strong.  (See the videos  below) Militarized police pointed live guns at the protesters and tackled some of them to the ground, supposedly because the counter-protesters were wearing bandannas.  In this instance, the response to peaceful counter-protesters was to meet them with excessive violence by militarized police. This, of course, violates the international laws and guidelines you can read below.   There would be no reason to point guns at the protesters or to throw any of them onto the ground.)

The spectre of counter-demonstrators showing up has become much more intense in the past couple of years. In states that allow open carrying of guns, there have been demonstrations that are for gun control, at which gun enthusiasts show up openly carry their guns. This can be terrifying for protesters, especially in the wake of mass shootings.

One main point is that no type of violence is ever legal at any protest, on any side.  There really is no good reason for protesters, on any side, to show up with flag poles, sticks, cans of anything ignitable, or any other thing that can be used as a weapon.  States might want to step up their games and outlaw open carry at any street gathering.  A few people carrying guns on the street can chill the right to free speech and freedom of assembly for the mass of people who feel unsafe in that situation. 

Another thing done, often by a lone counter-protester, is to show up with a megaphone and barrage the protesters with the shouted ideas of the counter-protesters.  Most towns and cities have noise ordinances, and in many cases, the use of a megaphone without a permit is illegal.  If this is happening at your protest, speak with local police and ask them to handle it.  At the recent March for Our Lives marches against school shootings, in one city, such a counterprotester shouting into a megaphone was seen surrounded by a circle of armed police.  They let him shout his pro-gun diatribe at the marchers, but made sure he and the marchers were kept separated from one another.  Sometimes people see police "protecting" a counterprotester in this way -- and that is what the international rules say is supposed to happen.  If possible, both sides are allowed to protest, and both sides are to be kept safe and separate from harming one another. 

 Let's look at excepts from international guidelines: 

An assembly that is convened to express
disagreement with the views expressed
at another assembly, and takes place at, or
almost at, the same time and place as the
primary assembly  (page 120, Glossary of Terms)

"The role of police in facilitating assemblies is paramount. Being the most visible
manifestation of government authority, the police demonstrate a state’s
commitment to upholding the rule of law and protecting fundamental human
rights and freedoms. The police must facilitate all peaceful assemblies,
including spontaneous and simultaneous assemblies and counter-demonstrations,
and protect participants in assemblies, allowing them to express their
views freely within sight and sound of the intended audience. This handbook
promotes a change of police mentality in approaching the policing of assemblies,
from looking at assemblies as potentially dangerous events to recognizing
assemblies as manifestations of an important human right that the police
must respect and protect. The majority of assemblies are, in fact, peaceful
and do not present particular public order challenges. However, it is crucial
for police to be well prepared and trained to prevent any conflicts related to
assemblies, as well as to de-escalate tensions should they arise." (page 7, Forward)

"Counter-Demonstration: This is a particular form of simultaneous assembly
in which participants wish to express their opposition to the views expressed
at another assembly. Emphasis should be placed on the state’s duty to protect
and facilitate each event where a counter-demonstration occurs. The state should
make available adequate policing resources to facilitate such simultaneous
assemblies, to the extent possible, within sight and sound of one another.
However, it should be noted that the right to counter-demonstrate does
not extend to inhibiting the right of others to assemble. There may be
Part I. Chapter 1. The Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly 17
circumstances where the authorities may legitimately restrict the right of
counter-demonstrators to protest within sight and sound of the assembly they
are protesting against in order to protect the other assembly."  (pages 16-17)

"If an assembly is confronted by a counter demonstration that seeks to restrict
the rights of people to peacefully assemble, then the counter demonstration
is no longer protected by international human rights law." (page 21)

"The fact that an assembly is likely to face a violent counter-protest, or even to be directly attacked by dissenting people, should not, as a matter of principle, lead to the prohibition of the peaceful assembly. In that case, it is the responsibility of the police to protect the peaceful assembly against the attacks or the violence of counter-protesters." (page 21)

"The starting point for police should always be the proactive policing of order
rather than the reactive policing of disorder. The relevant police commander
will need to continuously monitor the situation to assess the dynamics of
the assembly, onlookers and, where necessary, counter-demonstrators, so that
they can best manage the situation to ensure that peaceful order is maintained.
This may mean that the police need to be flexible in relation to any
legal restrictions placed on an assembly and to minor infractions of the law.
An approach that is too rigid to both may increase tension and provoke more
hostile or aggressive responses from participants. Even in situations where
some voices promote confrontation or violence the police should be able to
counter such influences if they remain aware of the differentiation among
participants, draw upon their knowledge of the range of groups and individuals
who are present, maintain a positive relationship with people and act with
discretion and tolerance." (page 24)

"In some contexts the police may need to use force to protect those participating
in an assembly if they are faced by hostile or aggressive counter demonstrations.
In such contexts, the police should seek to differentiate between the
aggressors and the targets of the aggression, and remember that they have a
responsibility to protect the rights of those exercising their right to peaceful
assembly." (page 31)

"Commanders should outline the specific risk (e.g., the risks associated with
the presence of a much larger number of participants than anticipated or the
risks associated with the presence of counter-demonstrators) and how they
can be dealt with. Contingencies should be put in place for emergency situations
and worse-case scenarios (e.g., sudden bad weather conditions)." (page 39)

"In assessing potential risks and hazards, the strategic commander should
always be mindful of a variety of possible different scenarios that may
unfold in the run up to and during the assembly. Scenarios may be
impacted by factors such as the number of people who may attend; their
political affiliations; the purpose of the assembly, including whether they
relate to other events taking place at the same time (e.g., visits of heads of
state, summits); the presence of counter demonstrations; the presence of
other activities in the vicinity; the location of the assembly and the route,
if it involves a march; and the time of day, weather conditions and other
potentially relevant factors." (page 55)

"Information must be gathered about the following areas:
Why is the assembly taking place? Who is the assembly for or against?
Could the presence of police inflame the demonstrators or onlookers? Is
the focus of the assembly likely to trigger a (violent?) response from other
parts of the society?
Who will be taking part in the assembly? Previous history? Age and gender
profile? Known intelligence on intentions? Who are the local community?
Who are the transient (passer-by) community? Will there be
counterdemonstrators or hostile members of the audience?
What are the intentions of the participants (note that intentions among
participants and groups within the assembly may differ)? Is there intelligence
about secondary intentions? Some sub-groups attending an
assembly may have the intention of mounting a secondary protest or
Where is the assembly due to take place? Are there any significant locations
that may be targeted by the event or some of the participants or
counterdemonstrators? What traffic concerns are there? Intended route?
When will assembly take place? What time of day and year? What are the
weather conditions? Travel implications (availability of public transport at
time of dispersal)?
How are individuals going to arrive at the assembly? How are they
intending to leave? Are there suitable exit routes and transport from the
assembly point? Is it going to be a static event or a march? Will there be
structures built, such as stages for speakers or loudspeakers?" (page 60)

ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSIONS:  If you want your protest to be legal, it must be non-violent.  You should plan it with that goal in mind, including prohibiting your own participants from bringing items that can be used as weapons -- either by them or against them.  If you are planning a protest that needs a permit, dialogue with the police or city permit officials regarding the potential for counter protesters.  If you are the one planning a counter protest, find out if you need a permit for your gathering.  Tensions between two groups can lead to deadly consequences, as has been seen at recent protests.  If you are planning a protest that does not need a permit, but you expect there might be trouble with counter demonstrators either being violent or disrupting by, for example, showing up with a bullhorn or megaphone and trying to drown our or overcome your protest, talk in advance with the local police.

Below is a video of a demonstration - counter-demonstration that became very violent when the two groups clashed.  This is an example of what is not supposed to happen.

March for Our Lives to End School Shootings:
How to Plan a Protest

March for Our Lives to End School Shootings:
How to Plan a Protest
by Susan Basko, esq.

Students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are holding a nationwide march against School Shootings on Saturday, March 24, 2018.

You can help fund the march by donating to this GoFundMe:

You can read more about the plans, as they develop, here:

You can read FAQ here:


1. Look around and see if a march is already planned for your city, town, suburb, or school. If so, you may wish to join those already planning. Or you may wish to start your own.

2. The DATE is Saturday March 24, 2018.

3. The TOPIC is to End School Shootings.

4. The theme color is ORANGE.  That is the nationwide color.  That means, anything orange helps - orange hats, orange shirts, orange jackets, orange signs, etc.

5. Pick a TIME and PLACE.

6. A Two hour time slot is what is usually allowed by most cities and also is the most successful at having a peaceful, legal protest that remains on topic.  The best time slot on a Saturday is usually a 2 hour time slot in the range between noon and 4 pm.  Such as noon - 2:00pm  or 1:00pm - 3:00pm or 2:00pm -4:00pm.  Personally, I think 2:00pm to 4:00pm is best. That way, people can start arriving any time after 1:00pm and if it goes a little over 4:00pm, it is no big deal.

7. PLACE: Most protests will probably be a RALLY followed by a MARCH.  If you hold the rally in a publicly-owned plaza, you should not need a permit, but you should check with your City or town to see if some other group has reserved the space for that time slot.  You'll need to call whoever it is that books the space.

A REAL GOOD PLAN FOR AN EASY PROTEST IS TO HAVE A RALLY IN A PUBLICLY-OWNED PLAZA for 45 minutes, and then go for a MARCH for an hour,  and then end out back at the same plaza.  That way, people can easily find where they locked their bikes, or find the public transportation that they arrived on, or find where they parked their car.

If you are not getting a permit, in most places, you CANNOT DO these things:
1. Build a stage or platform, hang any banners, set up any tents, or serve food.
2. Set up a sound system (except maybe a very small one)
3. Block the streets.

If you are not getting a permit, in most places, you CAN DO these things:
1. Gather round and a speaker or announcer can stand on an existing staircase, bench, etc.
2. You can use a bullhorn or small sound system that can be carried by one person.
3. You can have signs, drums, balloons.
4. Invite people to speak.
5. Invite people to play music or drums.
6. MARCH.  If your group will fit on the sidewalks, they should go on the sidewalks. If your group is large and needs to be in the street, the police are supposed to facilitate it so you can march in the street or in part of the street.

1. Put stickers on any surface.
2. Spray paint on anything.
3. Start anything on fire.
4. Surround any vehicle.  Tip or rock any vehicle.  Harass occupants of any vehicle.
5. Bring any weapons or fireworks.
6. Throw anything.
7. Break any glass.
8. Break anything.
9. Hit or harm any person in any way.
10. Threaten any person or harass any person.

8.  PUBLICIZE. ONCE YOU HAVE YOUR TIME AND PLACE, then PUBLICIZE that using Facebook, Twitter, emails, word of mouth, press releases, etc.

INVITE live streamers, citizen journalists, independent media, mainstream media.  

Invite speakers. Invite Music. Get people to make signs (hold a sign-making party?)
The nationwide theme color is ORANGE.

A Good Two Hour Agenda might look like this:

1:30pm - 2:00:   People arrive.  Music Playing. People setting things up,
2:00 - 2:45:  Rally with speakers, each with a time slot that you keep to tightly. Ideally, a featured speaker might be given 6 or 7 minutes, and others might get 4 or 5 minutes. Less is more.
2:45  - 3:45: March - and end back at rally location. When planning a route, go out and walk it in advance to see how long it takes.
3:45 - 4:00: Clean up.

1. Get people to bring bottles of water.  You can place boxes of bottles of water on the ground or on a bench, so people can find it and take a bottle.  Having water available will prevent people from getting dehydrated and sick.
2. Bring a whole box of garbage bags and CLEAN UP the space afterwards.  Leave the space better than you found it.  Get the garbage bags into a trash bin if possible, or take them home with you.  If you leave trash bags on location, they will likely be ripped open and the contents scattered.
3. Ask people to please not bring flyers, since these end out all over the ground.  If someone brings flyers, tell them to be sure to pick up all the flyers at the rally and along the march route. Hand them a trash bag for this purpose.
4. Plan for bathrooms.  For this march, people will probably not be renting portapotties -- but if they can, that is good.  Find out what bathrooms might be nearby or along the route.
5. Public Transportation, Parking, Bike Racks.  Gather all this information and let people know.
6. Handicapped. Try to plan your location and route so that handicapped people will be able to participate.  That means finding what public transportation is nearby and accessible, planning a route that has safe street crossings and ramps, which nearby places have a handicapped-accessible bathroom, pacing your march so handicapped people can keep up, and possibly assigning helpers to those who are handicapped, if they want a helper(s).
7. ALWAYS clean up afterwards!  Leave your rally plaza and march route better and cleaner than you found it!
8. LEGAL: Have phone numbers for lawyers or legal organizations in case things happen and anyone gets arrested.
9. MEDIA. INVITE live streamers, citizen journalists, independent media, mainstream media.  Make videos and post them online!  Take lots of pictures!  Live Tweet your march.

Planning Against Terrorism in Protests
How to Run a Protest: Basics
Quick Protest Planning: 10 Easy Steps
Questions about Protests
Agents Provocateurs
Hijacking a Protest: How to Prevent It

Why School Walkouts Are Elitist

Why School Walkouts are Elitist
by Susan Basko, esq.
I'm going to explain why national or regional School Walkouts are elitist. Please follow along. I have done legal work in this field.

 A school walkout means students walk out during school. This is tolerated differently in wealthy white schools than it is in schools where most students are poor, Hispanic, Black, and/ or immigrants.

 Wealthier white schools may use a walkout as a teaching moment. The principal or teachers might endorse or participate.

 Most Hispanic and Black schools have much stricter rules and policies. These usually cite "gang" activity as the reason for much stricter rules and increased punishments.

Schools within the exact same school district may (and often do) have different rules for schools that are predominantly Hispanic or Black. These rules are often hard to locate and may be disseminated only within the school, or not disseminated.

Walking out or advocating for a walkout in a Hispanic or Black school can result in expulsion or even arrest. Many such schools do not even allow for flyers to be passed in or near the school.

In addition, students from lower economic homes will have much harder times getting legal help. There is no financial or social incentive for the school to be lenient. There aren't usually lawyers in the students' family social circles.

Also, many Hispanic and Black students who walk out are, in fact, walking out into dangerous neighborhoods, where danger of being shot or beaten up exists on a daily basis.

Also, many Hispanic students may have immigration issues, or their parents may -- which makes any arrest or school trouble much riskier, especially now.

There are many other reasons - but basically, school walkouts are elitist and those who are from Hispanic or Black schools disproportionately face consequences.

In addition, even Saturday marches can be a burden on poorer students, who may not be able to afford transportation, may face danger in travel, and may be expected to work or care for siblings on weekends. It can help if buses or transportation can be provided.

If you want all students to have a fair chance to participate in a protest, don't hold it on a school day and don't run a walkout. Walkouts are elitist.

Protests: International Standards 2016

Protests: International Standards 2016
by Susan Basko, esq.

The expert panel of OSCE ODIHR has issued Human Rights Handbook on Policing Assemblies, its latest guidebook on international standards for protests. You can download a pdf of the guidebook HERE.   Previous versions in earlier years have leaned toward vague and euphemistic wording and idealistic expectations.  This 2016 version is more specific and useful, perhaps because of the addition of 10 panelists from police departments worldwide.

On this panel from the U.S., there is Ralph Price, General Counsel of the Office of the Superintendent from the Chicago Police Department.  Chicago has an excellent recent track record of large protests with no major trouble.  Chicago has also been able to hold huge non-protest events with only minor expected problems.  These events have included the November 2016 rally and parade for the Chicago Cubs World Series win, which the City of Chicago estimates had an attendance of 5 million people, making it the largest gathering ever in the United States and the seventh largest gathering in world history.  By any measure, this makes the Chicago Police experts at handling crowds. This sort of real world expertise helps make this new guidebook quite useful.

Note: OSCE ODIHR stands for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. OSCE has 57 participating nations on 3 continents of Europe, North America, and Asia.

In this guidebook, "assembly" specifically means a protest of some sort.  This guidebook lists "meetings, rallies, pickets, demonstrations, marches, processions, parades and flash mobs."  Glaringly absent is almost any mention of camping or tent protests, which have been prevalent worldwide over the past 5 years.  Page 13 of the guidebook makes this statement, but fails to call it "camping," and fails to mention tents: "Though they (protests) are usually of temporary nature, they may also last for considerable time, with their semi-permanent structures in place for several months." After this brief mention, the topic of camping as a protest is dropped.  In fact, since the Occupy protests, camping protests have become popular worldwide.

Also missing is any mention of a sit-in, which is a short or long term residence inside a building.  Another term used for this is occupation.  For example, in January 2016, armed protesters at the Maleur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon took over a lodge-like park office building that was closed for the season.  This was called an occupation, an armed occupation, a stand-off.

Camping and sit-in protests involve the occupation and exclusive use of space meant to be shared by others. These protests are often highly effective at galvanizing dissent and thus, may be highly useful to a democracy.  They are also where law enforcement most needs to be guided and restrained.  If you have been paying attention to the recent police actions against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allied protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline that proposes to send oil through several U.S. States, you have seen protesters sprayed with water in freezing temperatures, attacked with chemical weapons, and injured with projectiles shot from guns. The "No DAPL" protesters have a huge groundswell of support and appear to be holding ground on land that rightly belongs to their tribe.  Yet, stories of abuse by law enforcement against the protesters are cropping up daily.  The photos and videos are hard to deny.

Flash mobs are also listed in the "Types of Assemblies"  (pg 15), but are only minimally addressed thereafter.  This may be because a peaceful flash mob will usually be over and gone before there can be any police response.

Another topic that is missing from the guidebook is the manner of making arrests.  This is glossed over.  In the U.S., there has developed a widespread practice of police forcing a person to the ground to arrest the person.  This has led to many cases of injury and to physical abuse committed by police.  The arrestee is often ordered or forced to the ground, usually for no apparent reason.  Often, a police officer places a knee into the back of the person on the ground.  This surely causes injury to anyone and has been known to cause severe injury and death. Numerous videos show multiple police officers piling onto a person on the ground. Many videos show the person on the ground being kicked, beaten, or even shot (though shooting is usually in individual encounters and not in protest situations.)  The method and manner of arrest is an issue of dire, immediate importance in human rights with regard to policing.  The guidebook would have been far more balanced if the panel had included those who plan and participate in protests, rather than such a theory-only based panel.  It is way past time for any groups interested in human rights to address the manner and method of making an arrest.

Another topic that is missing is the widespread practice of targeting peaceful leaders for arrest.  Again, including panelists with real protest experience would have been useful.  Leaders of protests are often "picked off" by police in what are essentially random kidnappings.  Again, there is often video to show that such arrests come about with no provocation or need.

Another major topic that the guidelines do not address is the jamming or other interference with wifi or phone signals, and/or the use of stingrays to gather data from devices.  These actions by police to sabotage personal and journalistic media and communications should be prohibited.

 Thus, I suggest that in future versions of such OSCE ODIHR guidebooks on policing for protests:
  1.  That additional panelists be included to reflect a more well-rounded viewpoint, including those who plan and participate in protests;
  2.  That camping protests be addressed;
  3. That sit-in or occupation protests be addressed;
  4. That the specific method and manner of arrests be addressed and that police be prohibited from requiring or forcing any person to lie on the ground;
  5. That the practice of targeting peaceful leaders for arrest be prohibited.
  6. That police should be prohibited from jamming or interfering with wifi or phone signals or from using stingrays to gather data.

Among the positive highlights of the guidebook as the topics relate to the protesters or those engaged in the assembly , I have found these things (These are being numbered for use in referencing them; they are not in any order of importance.)

1. Freedom of peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right and, as such, is considered one of the cornerstones of a democratic society. (pg 12)

2. That protests often block traffic or cause inconvenience: "Many assemblies will also cause some degree of disruption to routine activities; they may occupy roads and thoroughfares or impact traffic, pedestrians and the business community. Such disruption caused by the exercise of fundamental freedoms must be treated with some degree of tolerance. It must be recognized that public spaces are as much for people to assemble in as they are for other types of activity, and thus the right to assemble must be facilitated. (pg 13)

3. That there must be a balancing act between the different people wishing to use the space: "Where peaceful protest interferes with the rights and freedoms of others it will often be the responsibility of the police to balance respect for of those rights with the right to freedom of assembly." (pg 14)

4. That there is a human right to peaceful assembly, but not to engage in violence against property or people:  "The right to assemble is a right to assemble peacefully. There is no right to act in a violent manner when exercising one’s right to assemble. If an individual acts violently while participating in an assembly, then that individual is no longer exercising a protected human right. However, violent acts by isolated individuals do not necessarily affect the right to assemble of those who remain peaceful." (pg 15)

5. Even if the protesters fail to comply with regulations (such as local regulations that may require a permit) police should still facilitate the protest:  "It should be noted that even though an assembly organizer or individual participants may fail to comply with legal requirements for assemblies, this alone does not release the police from their obligation to protect and facilitate an assembly that remains peaceful." (pg 15)

6. What is "peaceful assembly"?   "Peaceful Assembly: An assembly should be deemed peaceful if the organizers have professed peaceful intentions and the conduct of the participants is non-violent. Peaceful intention and conduct should be presumed unless there is compelling and demonstrable evidence that those organizing or participating in that particular event themselves intend to use, advocate or incite imminent violence. The term “peaceful” should be interpreted to include expressive conduct that may annoy or give offence, and even conduct that temporarily hinders, impedes or obstructs the  activities of third parties. 2 An assembly should be considered peaceful, and thus facilitated by the authorities, even if the organizers have not complied with all legal requirements. Lack of such compliance should not be an excuse to inhibit, disrupt or try to prevent an assembly." (pg. 14-15)

7. What is not "peaceful assembly"? "Assemblies that incite hatred, violence or war, aim to deliberately restrict or deny the rights of others or aim to intimidate, harass or threaten others, in violation of applicable law, are not considered to be protected assemblies. Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law, and that any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.” (pg 15)

8. If some of the protesters are violent, police should deal with those individuals and not deny the whole group the right to assemble: "If individuals or small groups of people engage in acts of physical violence during an assembly, the police should always ensure that their response is proportionate and focuses on those who are engaged in violent behaviour rather than directed at the participants in the assembly more generally. This is true whether the violence is directed against the police, individuals, property, people within the assembly or those perceived to be in opposition."  (pg 18)

Example from recent news: Such a situation was seen at a recent protest in Portland, Oregon, after the 2016 presidential election.  A very large protest took place.  A small subset of individuals came armed with bats and metal bars, and broke windows on shops and smashed the windows and metal on cars.  The Portland police were heard on videos telling those not engaged in the violence to separate themselves from the violent protesters and go protest at a different location where peaceful protests were being held.  The police then declared the area a riot and stated that all present were under arrest.  Overall, it appeared that the Portland police did a good job of protecting the rights of the peaceful protesters while being able to arrest a significant number of the violent protesters.

9. Costs of Policing should not be charged to protesters or organizers.  Insurance coverage should not be required: "The costs of providing adequate security and safety (including policing and traffic management operations) should be fully covered by the public authorities. The state must not levy any financial charge for providing adequate policing. Organizers of non-commercial public assemblies should not be required to obtain public-liability insurance for their event." (pg 21)

NOTE:  I would like to see this expanded to say that a City should open its available public restrooms for use by those in an assembly or protest.  Other nearby facilities, such as park benches, picnic tables, public transportation stations and bus stops, drinking fountains and water spigots, electrical outlets, bicycle racks, and other existing facilities should be open and their use not denied to protesters.

10. Police should not interfere with or restrict media journalists.  No distinction should be made between media organizations and independent journalists.  People should be allowed to video or photograph the police.  Police should not confiscate or damage cameras, cell phones, or other equipment of the journalists. (pgs 33-34)

11. That police officers may never act as agents provocateurs: "That officers must not act as agents provocateurs and may never instigate, participate or incite illegal actions within the assembly." (pg 71)  This topic is limited to a single sentence, but should instead be printed in huge bold letters taking up an entire page.  There are many stories of police acting as agents provocateurs and trying to incite violence or entrap protesters.  It is heartening to see this despicable practice prohibited by OSCE ODIHR.

12. Policing Strategy:  Part II of the guidebook, which is pages 42-125, deals with the police planning and strategy.  Topics include the use of water cannons, chemical agents, impact round (less than lethal weapons), and firearms.  Notably absent is discussion of the use of a sound cannon or LRAD.   If you are involved in planning protests or in giving legal advice or assistance to those who do plan protests, you should read this entire section.  It will give you a picture of the details of planning, infrastructure, and expense that go into running a police force that can properly handle public assemblies. (pgs 42-125)  It can also help you understand the rights of protesters and how to protect them from harm.  Although each city in the U.S. and each city worldwide all have different specific laws regarding public assembly, there is a commonality to the approach.  This guidebook is an attempt to get the OSCE member nations all on the same framework of respect for human rights in peaceful assemblies.

NOTE: My personal observation has been that the more organizers and protesters or participants in public assemblies are aware of the laws, rules, regulations, and practices of the police and city, the more likely the protest is to be peaceful.   The more people can engage in peaceful protest, the better the democracy.  Protest and assembly are basic human rights that lead to better government.

So, too, the more aware that people are of the possibility that there may be people who show up at a peaceful protest with the intent of disrupting it with violence or chaos, the more likely the peaceful ones are to separate themselves from the violence.  Knowledge is a powerful thing.

More about OSCE:

The OSCE has 57 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America:
    • Albania
    • Andorra
    • Armenia
    • Austria
    • Azerbaijan
    • Belarus
    • Belgium
    • Bosnia and Herzegovina
    • Bulgaria
    • Canada
    • Croatia
    • Cyprus
    • Czech Republic
    • Denmark
    • Estonia
    • Finland
    • France
    • Georgia
    • Germany
    • Greece
    • Holy See
    • Hungary
    • Iceland
    • Ireland
    • Italy
    • Kazakhstan
    • Kyrgyzstan
    • Latvia
    • Liechtenstein
    • Lithuania
    • Luxembourg
    • Malta
    • Moldova
    • Monaco
    • Mongolia
    • Montenegro
    • Netherlands
    • Norway
    • Poland
    • Portugal
    • Romania
    • Russian Federation
    • San Marino
    • Serbia
    • Slovakia
    • Slovenia
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • Tajikistan
    • the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
    • Turkey
    • Turkmenistan
    • Ukraine
    • United Kingdom
    • United States
    • Uzbekistan


About my involvement with OSCE ODIHR: Susan Basko, the author of this article, is a lawyer in the United States of America. Among other things, she assists those who want to plan a protest.  She is open in helping people from the wide spectrum of political and personal viewpoints.  IN 2012, she assisted OSCE ODIHR in a study of protests throughout the world, with her expertise being lent to the U.S. protests taking place in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oakland, California.  Ms. Basko was invited by OSCE ODIHR to participate in a summit of leaders and activists from around the globe.  That meeting was held in Vienna, Austria. Ms. Basko contributed by making proposals for international laws to require nations not to interfere with internet or phone signals during a protest.  That proposal was accepted by the assembly and became part of the recommendations for laws sent to the 57 participating nations.  Ms. Basko sees OSCE ODIHR as the organization making the biggest impact worldwide to protect the human rights of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the media.